Hooniverse Motorboat Monday, Reader Submission Style

(Editors Note: I made the call over the weekend to the readers of Hooniverse to submit stories of interest, and we received this great piece from Derek (Mr_Biggles) when he was working as a small engine mechanic in Northern Ontario…. Enjoy.)
Back before I came to my senses (or lost my mind depending on your point of view) and went back to school for a mech eng degree, I worked as a marine and small engine mechanic near Parry Sound in northern Ontario. Most of the boats I dealt with were ho-hum runabouts that everyone used to get back and forth to their cottages and cocktail parties, but every now and again someone would bring in something a little more hoon-worthy.

The boat in the pictures is an 18′ tunnel hull built by an extinct company called Calais from somewhere in British Columbia. Power came from a 350 cubic inch twin turbo Gale Banks engine. No idea what the actual horsepower number was. I bow to the knowledge of the folks who come to Hooniverse. No doubt there is someone who can tell me what the output of a late 80’s or early 90’s Banks turbo 350 was likely to be. The owner was this wealthy 75 year old guy who didn’t know and didn’t care as long as he could drive the hell out of it and you didn’t scratch the varnish on the mahogany bits. I was somewhat in awe of the engine, partly because I hadn’t ever seen a Gale Banks product before, and partly because I’d had no idea water injection existed before that. When the injection system came on, this wonderful old school indicator light made from multi-facetted blue glass would come on to let you know. Oddly, I remember thinking at the time that since the injection tank filled itself from the lake, we could just carry on at WOT until we ran out of gas.

What I also remember really well is the sound it made. I love the burbling idle sound you get from marine engines with the cooling water exiting in the exhaust. And with no mufflers, there’s a wonderful roar at WOT. If memory serves it did very close to 80 mph and trailed a nice rooster tail from the surfacing prop. Those who spend time in boats will recognize 80 as pretty damn fast on the water.
As an addendum (with no pictures – sorry), the same guy bought another one of the same hulls later on in the 90’s. This one was an open design with a small walkaround cuddy cabin. Calais had grafted a 2′ welded aluminum extension on so they could mount twin 175 hp outboards on it. It also topped out near 80 mph. For some reason the extensions didn’t match the bottom of the sponsons exactly, so they had screwed and epoxied some aluminum wedges to the hull bottoms to smooth the transition. The last time I drove that boat I was doing around 75 mph, giggling away to myself like one does, when the leading edge of one of the wedges came loose and caught in the water. Instead of tearing off, it bent down at about 90 degrees. If it had simply broken off, I’m sure there would have been no problem. Instead, in that split second, that side of the boat tried to slow to around 10 mph, the boat started to flat spin with the offside bow digging in and a huge wall of water went up. To this day I am still astounded that the boat didn’t flip immediately. If I hadn’t been driving with my hand on the throttles, I’m convinced it would have and I’d possibly not be telling this story. It’s not like I was wearing a lifejacket or even the kill switch lanyard at the time. For quite a while after that, I religiously clipped the lanyard on in every boat I worked on and test drove, regardless of how slow I thought it was going to go.

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  1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but 350cu in Twin-Turbo sounds like one helluvalot of power to send through that outdrive leg…
    Doesn't make me want that thing any less, though

    1. Mr_Biggles Avatar

      It was actually a more substantial outdrive than it looks like in the picture. The shifting was done in the upper, similar to a Volvo Penta, through huge gears. The lower was over 2' long and so looked deceptively small in diameter, but I would imagine they were pretty beefy gears in there as well. It was made by a manufacturer I had never heard of at the time or since, and hell if I can remember what that name was.

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        Fair enough, now you come to mention it it doesn't quite look like any leg I've seen, when I first saw the colour I guessed Johnson, but it clearly isn't. Maybe it was some kind of hybrid surface-piercing arrangement? Cool, and great post anyway.

        1. Mr_Biggles Avatar

          Thanks. High praise from an accomplished writer.

    2. GTXEliminator Avatar

      The Mercury Racing Bravo 1 XR can handle up to 600 HP.

      1. Mr_Biggles Avatar

        Back then I could pretty much rebuild Alphas and OMC Stringer drives in my sleep, but we looked after very few Bravos and I had pretty much no experience with higher performance units. Probably why it was so much more exciting when something like this came around.

        1. GTXEliminator Avatar

          Out drive technology sure has come a long way. OMC isn't even around any more and most wouldn't want to buy a new boat with an Alpha. I have a lot more respect for the little boat big engine then the big boat huge engine.Though where I boat you'd get killed quickly in something like that, hell our 26 foot Formula is a bit small for it.

  2. Deartháir Avatar

    It just proves that I'm puerile, but when I read a title about motorboating and submission, I got a little bit turned on.

    1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

      Motorboating at 80mph sounds like a recipe for neck sprain to me.

  3. njhoon Avatar

    Twin turbo SBC in an 18 ft boat seems inherently unsafe…I love it! This thing must have been fun as heck to pilot. Good for him that it was 75 year old to do it too.

  4. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Fantastic Story Mr. Biggles! Thank you for sharing.

  5. BOOM! Avatar

    Great post. Random factoid that might be possibly relevant here: The first time I'd heard of Gale Banks was when Car and Driver tapped him to help with their monster Firebird build in the mid-80s. The twin-turbo small block he built put out approximately 600 hp, if memory serves correctly. The article noted he built mostly turbocharged marine engines. That small block pushed the Trans Am to a touch over 200 mph on Mrs. Orcutt's driveway. Why is this still in my memory banks? A horribly wasted youth, that's why.